Saturday, June 28, 2014

Summer Reading, Part 1 (June)

1.  A Shiver of Light, Laurell K. Hamilton - I'll let my iBooks review speak for itself.  (This is the first review I've ever left....I was THAT annoyed, particularly by #1.)  " Reads Like A Draft:  I've enjoyed Hamilton's books for years, and the Merry Gentry books are by far my favorites.  I was really looking forward to this book, and started to read it just as soon as my preorder became available.  I'm sad to say that I was sorely disappointed.  It had some major flaws that were pretty difficult to ignore.  1.  I found many, many grammatical errors.  In places it was actually difficult to read because they were so obvious and confused the prose.  In a writer of this caliber, it boggles the mind that the copy editing was so poorly done.  (I'm not blaming Hamilton for this....totally her publisher's fault for releasing a book that needs so much work.)  2. A frequent problem authors have when they get this far into a series is that they feel the need to constantly remind the reader of the who, what, and whys. A certain amount of this is OK, but in a couple of spots it was as if Hamilton had forgotten that she'd just reminded us of that detail a chapter or two earlier.  The exposition also felt very cut and paste - as if she'd lifted it directly from earlier books.  3.  The plot was practically nonexistent and rushed.  I get that many of Hamilton's books are more about the relationships, and that can be ok.  In this particular book, though, it felt like a complete after thought.  I really wish Hamilton had ended the Merry Gentry books after the last one, leaving the readers to their own imaginations as to what happened next.  I wonder?  Did she want to write this book?  or was it a contractual obligation?  Either way, it's a huge disservice to characters I love." was THAT bad.

2.  Slammerkin, Emma Donoghue - I found this book on the iBooks sale page, and have to admit to being pretty curious.  I know Donoghou from her brilliant book, Room, and had no idea that she'd done historical fiction.  It was a fun read, but nothing that will stick with me.  I will say that I LOVED the fact that the main character was unrepentantly out for her self and her own desires.  The sweet and oh-so-good female protagonists of so much historical fiction get a bit tiring at times.  Likewise, the gritty look at the London underbelly was fascinating. 

3.  Tooth and Claw, Jo Walton - Charming, quite charming!  I have to admit that despite the fact that I had read the description many well as a few reviews...I was completely surprised by the fact that the main characters were dragons.  Silly me!  The best way to describe it is as a fantasy send-up of a Jane Austen-esque novel.  It was a delight, and I loved the happy ending!

4.  Ready Player One, Ernest Cline (audio, read by Will Wheaton) - Why, oh why? did it take me so long to read this book?  It's been in  my wish list for YEARS!!!!!  What's even more is the fact that I've had friends specifically suggest it to me.  Until I stumbled upon the audio on the library's website, though, I just didn't have any intention of reading it.  (Weird.)  On the one hand, a book that's basically about a virtual reality video game in the future doesn't really sound like me, even with a very liberal dosing of 80's pop culture.  On the other hand, I was so sucked into the book that I had trouble turning it off when I had to go do other things.  One of the things I loved most about it was the fact that the action was so intense that I actually became nervous for the characters.  That doesn't happen to me often.  Also, the whole VR thing was tilted in such a way that it became very compelling for me...especially the discussion about identity.  Of course, my husband must read this book.  (hint, hint....)  As a big bonus, Will Wheaton did an amazing job reading it!

5.  A Wrinkle In Time, Madeline L'Engle (audio, read by Hope Davis) - I am a very, very sneaky Mom.  We had a two hour drive...  I didn't want to have to listen to the kids' music... I didn't want to have to listen to the kids squabbling...  I wanted a peaceful drive.  I also wanted to introduce my girls to my all time favorite book.  Worked like a charm!  Both girls are reading it, and I had the charming experience of listening to it for the second time in my life.  My very first introduction, in fact, was an old audio version that Mrs. Andrews played for my gifted class while we finished up our day.  This is the most recent recording, and while I give big props to Hope Davis's work, I will also admit that her children's voices were a bit grating and whiny at times. What sticks out most this time is a single sentence.  "I give you your faults."  It's a phrase I'm pondering closely these days. 

6.  Written In My Own Heart's Blood, Diana Gabaldon - Book #8!'s been a couple of years since I read the series, and as I didn't reread any of the other books (seriously, I have such a long wish list!) I had trouble remembering who everyone was and what they were all doing.  Unlike other authors (ahem, looking at you, Laurell K.), Gabaldon never feels the need to recap.  While yes, it meant I did struggle a tad with my memory and getting back into it, I have to say that I really, really appreciate this about her.  Not a word is wasted on pointless recap...she wants her story to move forward!  The good news, Gabaldon doesn't leave you with a gazillion loose ends at the conclusion.  Yay! It's a super-fun read, and as always I love Gabaldon's attention to historical detail and the rich landscape and cast of characters she's developed. 

7. The Winter People, Jennifer McMahon - Scary books in summer?  Why not!  I loved it...absolutely loved it.  There was a certain homespun quality to it that lent it an air of folklore.  Creepy, and sad, and containing a mystery which is perfectly built.  It was fun. 

8.  A Wind In The Door, Madeline L'Engle (audio, read by Jennifer Ehle) - Of course, I had to continue the series.  Duh.  Jennifer Ehle is the much better reader.  I must say that over the years this particular book has been the most meaningful of the time quartet to me.  (A Wrinkle is my favorite just by the smidge of a reason that it was first.) 

The next few books come because of my love of Krista Tippett's podcast, On Being.  I discovered it a few months ago, and have slowely been working my way through the 300ish episode backlog since the shows beginnings back around 2001.  The podcast, to me, is like church.  I adore Tippett's ability to interview people of all different backgrounds, belief systems and ideas with great respect and a spirit of genuine inquiry.  I've started checking books by my favorite interviewees out of the library.

9.  Here If You Need Me, Kate Braestrup - Braestrup is one of the first chaplains ever appointed to the Maine Warden Service, and this is her memoir about her journey into that calling.  It was beautiful.  My own calling to the office of priest is a calling to the ministry of presence...which is exactly the sort of ministry that Braestrup practices.  In many ways, I read this book as a sort of 'how-to'.  I have a feeling I'll be rereading it when I need to reconnect to my calling. 

10.  Waking, Matthew Sanford - When Sanford was 13, his family was in a devastating car accident that killed his father and sister and left him a paraplegic. In his memoir, he tells the story of his path towards healing.  It's a brutal book.  The details of his extensive time in hospitals and of his many surgeries are likely to leave you cringing.  However.  The amazing connection he was able to build with his body through yoga is truly awe-inspiring.  It for sure gives me something to think about as I continue to work to heal my own body. 

11.  To Bless the Space Between Us, John O'Donohue - Truth be told, I first heard about O'Donohue on Terri Windling's blog, Myth and Moor, several years ago.  I was interested....but never actually followed through on my desire to check out the books.  I sat down with this little book of blessings while waiting for the girls to select their own books from the library.  That was a mistake.  Within minutes I was sobbing like a baby.  I've found my poet. 

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